Sunday, September 18, 2011


I had mixed feelings when I started reading Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (516 pages); on the one hand I was dreading it, due to the negative things I had heard about it from some modern readers, but on the other hand I was rather excited due to the critical acclaim it received when released, and up to this day, from many critics. After reading it, I have decided to join the latter party.

I had been warned that it was a lengthy read and, although it is a little over 500 pages, it did take me quite a while to finish (much longer than my usual timeline to devour a novel). I believe there are 3 primary reasons why it took me so long (in addition to the fact that it was summer and I had been busy doing other things);
  1. Pamela likes to repeat herself, a lot! Every so often Richardson will have his protagonist spend pages upon pages retelling the story so far; although this fits in the style of this early epistolary novel (presented as a series of letters) it becomes quite tiresome.
  2. There are numerous periods of waiting for Pamela and, although it is sometimes quite interesting to see into how she is thinking, and feeling, in particular situations, they can be a rather slow read.
  3. The novel contains 370 notes (that are provided at the back of the book). I have mentioned my hatred towards the flipping back and forth method of reading a novel but this one was rather quite interesting. Not only did it provide the usual modern explanations of unfamiliar words but it also gave quite an in-depth detailing of different changes Richardson made in the numerous editions of Pamela.

Although many times a ‘slow’ read can be seen as a bad read, I wouldn’t necessarily say it was in my case; it was nice to let myself get immersed in Pamela’s life and take my time while I was there to see the sights instead of buzzing past everything like Roadrunner.

The most interesting part of this novel was the complete change it undertakes half way through. The initial story has the same subject matter as Lolita but is presented from the young girls perspective (Pamela) however the story transforms into a Jane Eyre-esque wealthy/poor love story about half way through. This mixture of subject matter did keep the book readable and not just dreary.

Richardson managed to balance this novel with lovable characters and detestable individuals; he even managed to have some of the characters be nice in some aspects and loathsome in others. This perfect balance keeps the story fresh as you read through constantly similar diary entries/ letters.

Once you look past her constant complaining, Pamela is quite a lovable character and she really does seem to deserve the happiness she finds at the end with Mr. B; the secondary title to the novel is very fitting Virtue Rewarded.

As always, I found some great new words (all descriptions below taken from the Notes (page 517-538);
  • Foolatum a humoursly archaic term for ‘fool’.
  • Trow? do you think?
  • ’Ifackins in faith.
  • Pursy short-winded, puffy or fat.
  • Hap fate.
  • Noisome ill-smelling.
  • Fleers mocking looks or speeches.
  • Chop logick exchange logical arguments.

The edition I read was ISBN: 978-0-140-43140-7.

Richardson, Samuel. Pamela. Toronto: Penguin, 2003. Print.